Mānoa Heritage Center



Kī (Ti)

PC: Mānoa Heritage Center

Cordyline minalis

Polynesian Introduction

Kī is a fast-growing woody plant that can reach 12 feet high. Known to Hawaiians as kī, it is a ti plant, a member of the lily family. Kī is considered sacred to the Hawaiian god, Lono, and the goddess of hula, Laka. It is an emblem of high rank and divine power. The kāhili (ceremonial standard), in its early form, was a kī stalk with clustered foliage of glossy, green leaves at the top. The leaves are used by the kahuna priests as protection to ward off evil spirits. 

There are many uses for the ti plant. The boiled roots are brewed into a potent liquor known as ʻokolehao. The large, sweet roots are baked and eaten as a dessert. This versatile plant also has many medicinal uses, either alone or as a wrapping for other herbs needing to be steamed. Ti leaves are also wrapped around warm stones to serve as hot packs. A drink from boiled green ti leaves is used to aid nerve and muscle relaxation. The fragrant flowers are used for asthma. In addition to healing practices, large ti leaves can become roof thatching, wrappings for cooking food, serving food, fishing lures on hukilau nets, woven into sandals, hula skirts, lei, and rain capes.